Executives’ desire to see measurable return on investment didn’t evaporate with a turn of the calendar, nor did marketing’s encroachment on public relations’ turf. Here’s how to proceed.
PR pros will face growing pressure this year to prove how their activities contribute to the organization’s bottom line.
Digital-savvy marketing teams could make substantial inroads into traditional public relations turf if PR does not offer relevant benchmarks. In essence, PR could soon become a subunit of marketing.
Experts offer these recommendations to overcome challenges to PR measurement and gain its full benefits:
- Track what matters most. PR can gain greater respect by placing less emphasis on metrics involving views and more emphasis on conversions. “Long gone are the days when effectiveness was measured by how many eyeballs you’ve reached. Today it’s all about getting the right eyeballs to act in a way that increases revenue,” says PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing.
- Compare yourself to benchmarks. When making a case for resources, try benchmarking similar companies to compare staffing and results, recommends Seth Arenstein, editor at PR News. Beware of benchmarking your organization against the largest company in your niche. Compare your organization to competitors in the same geographical locations, in the same vertical markets or those seeking the same media audience.
- Integrate communications/PR measurement across all media. By integrating all communications measurement into a single dashboard, PR pros can collect and analyze all owned and earned media data for a comprehensive analysis of communications methods and strategies, making it more valuable for planning and implementation.
- Share data and analysis with other departments. Segment these elements, and make them available to your colleagues in marketing, brand management, competitive intelligence, country management and other functions. Media monitoring and measurement services make it easy to share data and analysis companywide. Offer the other departments your insights drawn from the data and, if your colleagues are amenable, your recommendations for changes in communications programs.
- Mine social media data. Social media analytics provide a trove of data on consumers’ behavior. Every post, click, “like” and comment leaves an audit trail. PR and marketing departments can tap that information to identify audiences and understand their motivation.
“What is new is the scale of data in public relations and the growing availability of third-party tools that enable us to make sense of it,” says Stephen Waddington, partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum.
Explore social media networks’ native analytics tools, such as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, to gain insights. Then look into third-party social media monitoring and measurement tools. Be aware of the provenance of data and any ethical considerations about using the information, Waddington adds.
- Align PR objectives with the organization’s main goals. Measurement experts recommend first learning your leaders’ primary objectives and then selecting PR metrics that report progress toward leads, revenue and profits. “We’ll be taken serious as a discipline when we provide meaningful measurement that is aligned to the organizations that we serve,” Waddington says.
- Focus on a handful of key metrics. Tracking lots of metrics is time-consuming. Some could be redundant, obsolete or even dangerous. Experts recommend focusing on five or fewer meaningful metrics.
- Pursue qualitative insights. PR pros can show their value by reporting how their activities affect newsletter lists, media mentions and sales leads. However, not every facet of communication can be measured numerically. Qualitative measurement entails interpreting the data to find actionable insights not revealed by hard numbers.
- Review the content of media mentions. Measuring these data can provide insights on success of specific communications methodologies. By reading the content of traditional media mentions and social media comments, you can cull even deeper insights about corporate reputation and how people feel about the organization. A single comment or image can lead to important recommendations. For instance, a pharmaceutical company found a photo of a man wrapping his leg in foil after applying the company’s pain relief ointment, because the medication left indelible stains on certain fabrics. The photo prompted the company to change its product and improve customer satisfaction.
- Select an appropriate measurement tool. When reviewing media monitoring and measurement services it’s crucial to research their media coverage, clip accuracy, customization abilities, graphic depictions and other capabilities.
Bottom Line: This year may be a crucial year for public relations. PR teams will fight marketing, advertising and SEO agencies to protect and expand their businesses. PR will employ sophisticated PR measurement practices to prove how their activities support key business objectives.